American bid approach for Ushers

USHERS of Trowbridge, the Wiltshire brewery sold off by Grand Metropolitan in 1991 as part of its merger deal with Courage, is the latest regional brewer to receive "an unsolicited approach which could lead to a bid". It follows within 24 hours of an approach to Vaux the Northeast brewery and hotels group.

Ushers floated at 110p a share last March but its first year's plans were shattered by the loss of the contract to brew for Scottish & Newcastle, which accounted for a third of its contract brewing.

Sales have been only partially recouped by the deal to brew for its neighbour Gibbs Mew, which closed its own brewery last year. The shares slumped to a low of 70p following a profit warning and only recently struggled back to 90p helped by plans for share buy-backs.

Yesterday they leapt 25.5p to 127.5p in the hope of a bid at 130p, believed to be from Alchemy, a US-based venture capital group. It would value the group, which has 128 pubs and recently bought some hotels, at pounds 127m and the shares around 12 times earnings. Schroder Venture Funds hold 28 per cent of the company and SBC funds a further 20 per cent.

The approaches triggered a round of broker recommendations yesterday. Panmure Gordon issued buy notes on both Greenalls and Ushers, ABN Amro recommended Greene King and Greenalls, Cazenove advised clients to buy Youngs and Greenalls, Teather & Greenwood favoured Morlands, and another broker tipped Wolverhampton & Dudley as well as Greenalls.

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